Watch out Elon? Virgin’s futuristic transportation system moves one step closer after a successful test with passengers in Nevada desert
A speedy alternative to the humble train has been successfully tested with human passengers in the Nevada desert this week.
Los Angeles-based Virgin Hyperloop carried out the “world’s first hyperloop passenger test”, which saw two company staff (Josh Giegel and Sara Luchian) acting as the passengers in Virgin’s “Experimental-Pod-2 (XP-2)”.
A hyperloop is essentially a futuristic and (at this stage) an experimental concept that sees a pod placed within a vacuum tube that can travel at speeds as high as 600 mph. Virgin’s system includes magnetic levitation, much like used on high speed rail in Japan and Germany.
The idea is that magnetic levitation lifts a train car above a track, and the magnets also propel the train.
As this was an experiment, Virgin’s XP-2 pod only reached speeds of 107mph, but the acceleration was a bit fierce (it did the 500 metre track in 15 seconds) due to the short nature of the Virgin Hyperloop test track.
“You won’t need a space suit to go in our vacuum,” said the company. “Virgin Hyperloop is developing the necessary subsystems required to ensure traveling with hyperloop is as safe as riding an elevator.”
“Independently validated by an Independent Safety Assessor, Certifer, our XP-2 vehicle and the DevLoop infrastructure demonstrate many of the safety-critical systems that will be found on a commercial hyperloop system, and are equipped with a state-of-the-art control system that can detect off-nominal states and rapidly trigger appropriate emergency responses,” it said.
The thinking behind the hyperloop system is that it could connect cities and aid in the rapid transportation of people, as speeds of up to 600mph.
The infrastructure can be built either above ground, or below ground, but this is a more expensive option as tunnelling is an money intensive process.
Virgin Hyperloop said that its future commercial systems will have pods that seat between 25 and 30 people.
However Virgin Hyperloop still needs to raise enough money for its next project, a six-mile, $500 million test facility in West Virginia.
The firm hopes to get its hyperloop system certified in 2025 or 2026, with potential hyperloop projects before the decade ends.
But Virgin Hyperloop is not the only player in town.
Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk also has a hyperloop venture, called the Boring Company.
Musk announced the hyperloop concept back in 2013 and in 2017 he tweeted that he had “verbal govt approval” to build a tunnel from Washington, DC to New York.
That trip could potentially only take 29 minutes to make, but CNN reported that the first leg of the project is mired in an environmental review, and there’s no clear timeline for it being completed.
At the moment, the Boring Company has focused on building tunnels under cities, for a lower speed service in Tesla vehicles that don’t require a vacuum tube.
Indeed, it is reportedly currently building a system in Las Vegas, called “Loop.